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We apologize, many wonderful trips were taken in 2006, but no trip reports were submitted for posting to the website.

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 13:13

2022 Trip Reports - DE Offroad the Arctic?

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Desert Explorers Offroad the Arctic?

Trip Report from Anne Stoll

If visions of green places and waterfalls help make you feel cool this summer, I recommend photos from Iceland! I can even throw in an iceberg or two from Greenland if you like. We’re just back from both and these people certainly have plenty of fresh water, along with many other wonders to share. Free hot water 24-7 even in winter, once you’re hooked in to Reykjavik’s geothermal water system. Nice people and a clean, civilized small country – if only they didn’t have three deep black months (January through March) when it’s cold and the sun never rises at all, period. They also have crazy-long unpronounceable names for everything. But summer is heavenly – and they LOVE Toyotas! What more could you want?  ~ Anne

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 13:08

2022 Trip Report - Oaxaca

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Oaxaca

By Vicki Hill

It was only a Category Two hurricane, but it was the strongest to hit the coast of Oaxaca since 1949.

Since I was going to spend a week with friends at the coast in July, we were not pleased that the storm knocked out all of the roads going to Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. Aerial views showed mudslides with half of the roads gone in places. However, we had a nice, comfy little house to stay in and just did day trips from Oaxaca city for our 18 day stay. Those little jaunts included the archeological sites of Mitla and Monte Alban and several side trips to lesser known sites. Many wonderful meals, museum visits… A visit to the Benito Juarez home and a free symphony in the opera house built in 1904 were a few of the highlights.

The Spanish colonial architecture is beautiful. Many historic museums and churches cover the city.

The Mercado sells everything from pet hedgehogs to home made mezcal. Dried grasshoppers (chapulines) dipped in chile powder are the favorite crunchy snack at happy hour. They are sold on the street along with giant tortillas made of corn. I heard women speaking the ancient Zapotec language.

We stopped at at mezcal distillery and were given a mini tour and tasting. I was amazed to see that this huge industry in the state of Oaxaca is driven by small, individual agave farms and it is made the traditional way by roasting the agave in a pit and then crushing the leaves with the pulp in an arrastra, with a horse being led around it using a large granite wheel.

If the mezcal is made using this method, you can request a worm in the bottle. Actually it’s the larvae of the moth that helps pollinate the agave.

Having seen many arrastras in our desert and never thinking I’d see one in operation, it was quite the thrill.

In nearby town of Santa Maria del Tule we visited one of the worlds largest trees, El Tule, a Montezuma Bald Cypress over 2,000 years old and 46 feet in diameter! It’s the oldest living tree in Mexico and one of the oldest in North America. The tree has a 190’ circumference, a 46’ diameter, stands more than 139’ high.

My camera program and computer are not cooperating with each other so I only have cell phone pics to share for now, but I wanted to share that Mexico is so rich with tradition, foods, warm happy, and generous people. It’s worth spending more than a few days! ~ Vicki

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 13:02

2022 Trip Report - A Lucky Break

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A Lucky Break

By Joeso

The Sierras are beautiful in July. As a kid, my family always spent a week in Yosemite. As teens, Sue and I drove our VW bug over all the Sierra passes we could. We even honeymooned in the Sierras. So, last winter Sue and I made VRBO reservations for a July week in the Sierras and invited several DE friends along to fill the cabin (I use the term “cabin” loosely here). As the summer heated up, we kept our fingers crossed that forest fires (which seem to be becoming the norm) wouldn’t force us to cancel our July plans.

It was a hot and dry beginning for July in the California Sierras. The Electra Fire in Calaveras County started on the 4th of July and eventually consumed almost 4,500 forest acres. The Washburn fire started in Mariposa County on July 7 and for a while threatened the giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite and eventually consumed almost 5000 acres of forest. Then, on July 22 the Oak Fire started and was the worst of all. So far it has consumed over 14000 acres of beautiful forest.

So what became of our July Sierra plans? The dates that our little group of DE’ers had picked were July 18-23. Choosing those dates was a “lucky break” as the Electra and Washburn Fires had been largely contained and the Oak Fire hadn’t gotten going yet. The Sierras were beautiful, skies were clear! We walked under the Giant Sequoia trees of Calaveras, frolicked in cool streams and ate fresh, warm sour dough bread slathered with French butter at the old town of Columbia. Our visit to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park and Jamestown (antique shopping) kept us entertained for another fun day. We were in 1800s gold rush country and discovered many remnants of that era, even an old wooden flume still carrying water.

Unfortunately, our week ended way too fast. Heading home over Ebbetts Pass we could see smoke from the Oak Fire heading north. We had been so lucky. ~ Joeso

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 12:19

2022 Trip Report - Smiles and Miles of Texas

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Smiles and Miles of Texas

By Ingo Werk

Out West we’re used to wide open spaces. Desert Explorers and likeminded folks are doing extensive trail drives while encountering sometimes wild mustangs and bighorn sheep. Free of charge. In the Southeast things are slightly different. Coming from Louisiana down on the bayou, just had my catfish and gumbo, I got the rambling fever to cross the Red River, and all of the sudden I saw smiles and miles of Texas. The Texas swing classic gives you all the sights, flavors and sounds of the state in one song – “Miles and Miles of Texas” is an essential Texas road trip song. It’s a big state, and the miles do stretch out for a seemingly infinite distance. Arriving in the heart of East Texas, Gilmer is a small town of Jamboree fame since 1935. Located just a few miles outside is the Barnwell Mountain Recreational Area, the state’s most exciting off-road park with1,850 acres of nature and miles and miles of adventure trails. The trail system was developed by the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition and is maintained by the all-volunteer TMTC members. The trails are mapped and rated with signage for newbies as well as off-road pros. For more info and user fees: https://www.barnwellmountainra.com/

My “desert exploring Louisiana Tacoma” explored the park during the 2022 Lone Star Toyota Jamboree, an annual event held for outdoorsy Toyota owners to be part of some good ol’ Texas-style family fun. 600 vehicles showed up but I hardly met anybody while driving the trails. The area is so huge and the routes are so different, there was plenty of room to roam around. The trails were dry because the weather was good. If it rains, this could be a mighty muddy experience. After our departure several storms moved in, and I can only imagine the trail conditions. There was camping wherever you could find a spot, and of course genuine Texas Barbecue. Some local vendors showed up, and the event was well organized by the Toyota Trail Riders club members. Participants were of all ages and activities were family-oriented. The countryside is very pretty with lots of green trees and deer crossings. If you would like explore this yourself in 2023, please feel free and visit: https://www.lonestartoyotajamboree.com/ ~ Ingo

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A new beginning for J. Riley Bembry’s Mojave Cross

By Debbie Miller Marschke

On May 9, 2010 I found myself standing at the base of Sunrise Rock in the middle of the Mojave National Preserve with a group of Desert Explorers, many of whom are MDHCA volunteers. Present were: myself, Steve Marschke, Dave Given, Bob & Sue Jaussaud, Mal & Jean Roode, Mignon Slentz, Glenn Shaw, and Bob Rodemeyer. We were visiting the site of the historic and famed Mojave Cross that was erected by J. Riley Bembry in 1934, which was intended as a Veteran’s memorial. This cross had become a controversial focal point when a former NPS employee, Oregon resident Frank Buono, who spotted the cross while driving through the Preserve in 2001. Buono, represented by the ACLU, claimed that the sign of the cross was a violation of separation of church and state, and thus launched a landmark legal battle. The United States Supreme Court had issued its ruling on April 28, 2010 declaring that the controversial cross could remain within a National Park as a display. The plywood cover, which had encapsulated the cross since 2002 to shield it’s display from public view, was still present as nobody in an “official” capacity had removed the plywood since the ruling. Our group was offended by the plywood, and we all stood and discussed the fact that we felt offended that the protestors were offended by the Cross’s presence. Little did we know at that time we were one of the last people to see that historic cross atop Sunrise Rock. The next day on May 10, 2010, the cross was stolen from Sunrise Rock by a vandal. Eventually, a replica was erected in it’s place which was fortified to prevent future theft because the whereabouts of the original was not known. Two years after the vandalism, the “original” stolen cross was found in Half Moon Bay, CA. The perpetrator was never identified, but there was memorable news coverage and the issue was covered on a National level.

The theft of that artifact haunted me. Throughout my explorations of the Mojave and beyond, I have witnessed the disappearance or destruction of historical buildings and artifacts. It hurts my heart to watch history be vandalized or disrespected. So when I heard that the original cross had been recovered, I kept feeling an itch that something more needed to happen. Of course, I had lots of questions about what had happened to it which lead to much daydreaming. Life in general distracted me over the years, but in January of this year I decided to follow up. Maybe this is a “wrong” that could be “righted”? I contacted the person who had custody of the original Mojave Cross, Wanda Sandoz. She confirmed that she still had the cross tucked away safely, sheltered from the public. She and her husband Henry had promised Bembry in his last days that they would watch over the cross. Henry had died in 2015, so Wanda was the last of the guardians. I was not sure if things would pan out, but I asked her if she would consider donating the Cross to the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association (MDHCA) Goffs Schoolhouse as an interpretive display.

I explained to her that the theft of the cross had continued to bother me, and that it was my desire to see that Cross again as a memorial to the Veterans on the MDHCA property. It would be constructed as an interpretive display. Ms. Sandoz agreed that this would be an appropriate venue to receive the artifact. She has officially donated it to MDHCA.

On Friday, April 8, 2022, I traveled to the town of Mountain Pass, CA, and the home of Ms. Sandoz’s brother Roger Sandoz. I was accompanied by Laura Misajet, Jim Donatz, and Bill Slutter from MDHCA. Roger Sandoz is a self proclaimed “friendly hermit” as only leaves his property to pick up his mail, and has resisted travel to any nearby towns for spans longer than a year. Roger Sandoz very graciously gave us a tour of his property, which included many ruins of historic buildings predating the Sandoz ownership of the land. One of those buildings was the post office for Nantan (1887-1890); it was a small building made of stones that serviced the ghosted town of Mescal. The Sandoz family had received many of J. Riley Bembry’s personal effects after Bembry’s death, and Mr. Sandoz pointed out Bembry’s old desk, table, boom truck and water tank. We had a wonderful day with Mr. Sandoz as he shared so much of his life and “treasures” with us. We felt so lucky to be invited here! Finally, Jim and Bill hoisted the Mojave Cross into the MDHCA truck and we brought the Cross to Goffs.

Now that the MDHCA has custody of the Mojave Cross, the next step is to develop and construct an appropriate interpretive display. Once the display has been completed, I believe that a formal dedication should be in order. Ms. Wanda Sandoz expressed interest in attending the future dedication. This is an exciting project, so stay tuned as the story of the famed Mojave Cross continues to write history. ~ Debbie

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 12:08

2022 Trip Report - DE Loose in Sin City

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Desert Explorers on the Loose in Sin City

 A Different Kind of Desert Exploration with Mignon Slentz and Company

Last month some DE friends spent the weekend with me in Boulder City in order to be close to the Las Vegas scene. We visited the Old Mormon Fort, Las Vegas’s first settlement and saw a short video on its history and importance and toured the grounds. Next we walked to The Mob Museum and toured three floors of… what the title suggests. They even have a Speakeasy in the basement. Dinner was at the the Triple George across the street (three men named George own it).

We just had to venture a block away to The Fremont Experience and you will be very glad you didn’t have to see some of what we all saw, although Vicki did take photos. After dinner it was time to walk back to The Neon Museum where we had previously parked our cars. Our tour of Las Vegas’s retired neon signs was impressive and we arrived right at dusk. Some signs were lit up while others weren’t. It was a very informative and impressive show. ~ Mignon

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 12:02

2022 Trip Report - Mono Meander 1

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Sierras and Mono Meander 1

Trip Leader: Jay Lawrence Photos: Marian Johns and Jay Lawrence

A small group of trusting souls gathered Sunday, June 26th in Bishop with a rough plan to loop around the Mono Lake basin and see what was to be seen in the area. Our morning crew included Mignon Slentz and her son Joaquin, Dave Burdick, Marian Johns and Glenn Shaw. We would meet Bob and Sue Jaussaud at our campsite in the evening at Hartley Springs near Deadman Summit off Highway 395.

We kicked off the trip heading east from Bishop then north on Highway 6. Our first stop was at Chalfant Valley petroglyphs. It was clear we were in for a hot day, as the temps hit the high 80s by about 10:00 a.m., so we hiked a bit then pressed on, north to the Red Canyon petroglyphs and intaglios. At both spots we were on the heels of another small group of rock art enthusiasts so we introduced ourselves. It turned out that they were on a tour lead by author and rock art researcher David Lee. When we returned to the vehicles we were able to purchase several copies of his book Rock Art East of the Range of Light. It is notable for the hundreds of drawings of rock art from Owens Lake to Mono Lake and his breakdown of the different styles encountered in the Owens Valley.

We turned to the west through the beautiful Red Canyon to the southern end of Lake Crowley to take a look at the Crowley Pillars, exposed now due to the low level of the lake. After a bit of 4WD low range we topped a hill above the pillars with a great view of the lake and the the Sierras. We all elected to view the pillars from the hilltop. The hike down to them would have been easy but the hike back up would have been brutal.

Before the trip, DE veteran Ken Searer texted that he would be in the area so we set off to go say hi... Our fearless leader (me) overlooked a detail in his note and led the crew on a 20 mile unsuccessful wild goose chase so we regrouped and headed for our campsite. Bob and Sue were there waiting for us with two prime sites for our camping and dining pleasure. As is our tradition, camp was set up, food set out and we swapped stories and ate our way through the evening. A good first day.

In the morning we had a surprise visit from Ken who figured he’d better come check up on us since we missed him the day before. Breakfasts were eaten, joking and laughter ensued, trail info exchanged and we broke camp. We looped around the Obsidian Dome and checked out obsidian pieces the size of sofas and upper Glass Creek. Then on to Devil’s Punchbowl on the east side of 395 and across the Mono basin toward Lee Vining. Several gassed up and we headed up to Log Cabin Mine above Lee Vining, starting at 7,000 feet and ending at the mine at 9,000+ feet. Everybody could feel the altitude. Only one day before we were in Bishop at about 4,200 feet. Our hiking pace was slow as we explored all the equipment and outbuildings around the mine. It was in operation until the early 1950s and most of the original structures are still there, some fenced off and all abandoned. There was a lot to see and we scoured most of it. We elected not to overnight in the area due to the lack of suitable sites and headed back down the hill to 395 and then north to the Green River area.

Our efforts to find a campsite near Green River were thwarted by new ‘Private - No Trespassing’ signs and the lack of large spaces for our six vehicle group, but then Bob found a perfect place near the creek just before the sun went behind the peaks. With only a few mosquitos. Someone quipped “Oh, they’ll go away after dark!” They didn’t. They brought all their friends. Our evening meal was quick and everybody went for cover early, only to wake up to a world-class mosquito fest in the morning. Several folks “bugged out” at dawn to meet up at 395 and the rest of us followed shortly. It was an onslaught of epic proportions.

Everybody gathered at the 395 turnoff, swore at the mosquitos then headed to Travertine Hot Springs near Bridgeport. We were early so the small pools were available for a good soak while we took in the fine view of the Sierras. Bob and Sue insisted on making everybody an excellent meal of sausage, bisquits and gravy accompanied by PERFECT scrambled eggs! This was going to be a good day.

Once soaked and fed, we headed for Bridgeport to let folks who needed it stop for gas and/or ice. Then off to the east to the old mining townsite of Masonic. On the way we stopped at Chemung, a mining and processing operation with buildings still (barely) standing and lots to explore. One of the rooms of the plant, probably a small office, had built in benches and a large square window with a million dollar view of the Sierras from Lee Vining south. Definitely worth stopping for.

On to Masonic to see foundations and an ore processing terrace with stacked rock walls rather than cement, plus a cableway tram trestle on a neighboring peak. Quite a way off the beaten track but really something to see.

At this point, we were in the pines, the area was heavily forested and the meadows were full of Aspen, Iris and Cottonwood. This would change quickly. We headed south, with the abandoned townsite of Aurora as our goal for the day. We quickly hit alpine meadows with only sage and low plants, no trees. The elevation mostly hovered around 9,000 feet and the rolling hills went on and on and on as we headed toward Bodie. Little did we know what was in store for us there.

The road from the north descends dramatically into Bodie, meeting right at the main parking lot for the State Park. Five of us arrived without a hitch. Dave Burdick and his Jeep coasted in.

After a quick conversation and some head scratching, several of us dug into the Jeep engine compartment and eventually found a blown fuse labeled “Auto Shutdown.” Woohoo! We thought we had it licked and replaced the fuse. The Jeep started! It went 100 feet and died. Blown fuse... We replaced it again, same result. After more conjuring, it was clear that something much murkier was toasting the fuse and we weren’t going to be able to fix it. Mignon rounded up the ranger, a really nice woman who said Dave could user her phone to call AAA and get a tow to Lee Vining. He did that. Time passed, the flatbed tow truck showed up and soon Dave and Jeep were headed for Lee Vining for the evening. Mignon decided she needed to get home so she took off when Dave did. We were now down to four vehicles. It was 5:00 p.m. but we were only 15 miles or so from Aurora. Onward!

That would be two hours down a very pretty but very rocky canyon then up a mountain for those 15 miles. On the uphill leg we passed a HUGE modern heap leach mining outfit that was not operating, a giant antique rock smelter oven and chimney then the massive ruin of the original Aurora processing plant that cascaded downill for hundreds of feet and was probably 500 feet wide. Some very impressive old structures

for a mining area that hadn’t operated since the 1890s. We arrived at the Aurora cemetery with less than an hour of daylight left. We paid our respects then found a campsite nearby.

We settled in and had a great evening of food and friends and talked about who wanted to go where next. Glenn had always planned to bail out from Aurora since it gave him an easy bailout to Nevada Highway 95 and home. Bob and Sue would head out that direction also. That left Marion and I. We figured we could continue the route south from Aurora to Mono Lake east, then on to Dyer and eventually wind up in Big Pine. We would leave the undone itinerary to a Mono Meander Two trip sometime in the future.

All said their goodbyes and we headed out. Glenn, Bob and Sue east, Marian and I south. Our southern track was beautiful and easy at the start. Once we hit our big descent, things changed. The track narrowed, vehicle tracks became fewer and fewer then none. About half way down the slope, just when we had an outstanding view of Mono Lake, the Sierras and the White Mountains we ran out of two track. A short hike down the old trail showed that there had been massive flashflood erosion with rutted ravines several feet deep, covered by overgrowth in the last decade. This road was no longer. Taking the hint, we headed back to Aurora, then on to Hawthorne, Nevada and finally on to Bishop. What a trip! Good friends, great places, lots to see and too much good food. We should do more of this kind of thing. Next time we’ll try not to break any vehicles and skip the mosquitos   ~ Jay

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Saturday, 01 October 2022 11:58

2022 Trip Report - Santa Rosa Mountains

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Santa Rosa Mountains

Trip Leader: Vicki Hill • Photos by Vicki Hill and Jay Lawrence

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountain National Monument above Palm Springs extends along the western side of Coachella valley for 30 miles. It was created in 2000, and is managed by the Forest Service and BLM. I have wanted to take a Desert Explorers group there for many years.

So, our trip began by getting together at my home for a fish taco night and campout. The next morning we drove up into the mountains and made a stop at the Tewanet overlook of Deep canyon area, where a herd of endangered Penninsular bighorn sheep live. A wonderful interpretive exhibit with photos and a recording have been installed by the Cahuilla Indians, who have called the mountains their home for centuries.

Shortly after that we met our host and guide Daniel Foster at the site of the historic Shumway Ranch. He gave us the history of the ranch, a tour of the home and other buildings. He told us about the Shumway family who homesteaded the area in 1932, getting an entire 640 acres. They built a home, dug wells and lived there until 1963.

It changed hands and was occupied until 1973, when the Living Desert acquired it. Five years ago the state bought it and is now managed by the Friends of the Desert Mountains. The view to the desert below is incomparable. A book, Your Desert and Mine by Nina Shumway, Is available through the county library system and tells the fascinating tale of their lives at the ranch.

After a delightful visit we then drove up into the Santa Rosa mountains and had lunch at the Santa Rosa spring, where water was flowing strongly from a pipe that is maintained by the Forest Service.The water is clear and pure, and checked for quality regularly. It can be drunk without fear of contamination, which is different from most water sources we come across.

Our next stop was at the site of Desert Steve Ragsdales cabin. All that is left of it is the tall chimney. It was burned down by some careless campers a few years ago. More info on the Ragsdale family is available in Desert Magazine articles and by a Google search. Desert Steve was quite the guy. He and his wife founded the town of Desert Center on I-10. In the heat of summer, they and their five children would escape to the cabin at 8,000 feet.

At the site we found a cache in an ammo box that was filled with odds and ends. Jay put one of our new DE stickers inside the lid for all to see!

From there we headed to a cabin that’s managed by friendsofthe desertmountains.org, an excellent organization that the DE voted at the last planning meeting to send a donation to.

Our host, Robert Berriman gave us a tour and history of the cabin and the Nightingale family who put through the road on the mountain and developed the Pinyon Flats area.They knew the Ragsdales and were the only other family on Santa Rosa mountain.

He didn’t take us too close to an old original structure near the corral because that morning he had been greeted by a huge pacific black rattlesnake. It IS a desert mountain, after all!

The cabin is not open to the public, but we were able to go in and see their comfy little house with its deck overlooking the San Jacinto mountains.

After our visit we proceeded to set up camp nearby in an established camping area. Since Stage Two fire restrictions are in place, we needed to have a permit to even have gas stoves or heaters.

Right now you can go to the Forest Service website, watch a quick video, then take a short test to make sure you understand about campfire safety.

Even though all of us all aware of the dangers, it doesn’t hurt to take a small refresher course.

We shared happy hour and dinner at 8,000 feet, wore our jackets, and watched the lights of Palm Springs twinkling below us.

The next morning we continued on the road to its end, just below Toro Peak at 8,717 feet which is owned by the Cahuilla tribe and is sacred land. It’s protected by a locked gate and signage asks that you not trespass. We enjoyed the views of the Salton Sea, Desert Hot Springs, Mount San Jacinto and all of the Coachella Valley from there.

Since there are no alternative roads to take home, we backtracked to Highway 74, known as the Palms to Pines highway.

Bob spotted an old garnet mine on Google earth, so we stopped to check it out. Unfortunately, the way to it was overgrown. Only the remains of rock walls were left.

While driving out, we drove over a midden near a spring area covered with oak trees. This is where the cahuilla people would come every fall to collect acorns. As recently as 200 years ago, there were seven villages in the San Jacinto valley alone. Many more villages were below Toro Peak, in the Anza Borrego and Palm Springs areas. The Santa Rosa reservation is next to the monument and their people have recently open a gas station/minimart where one can get the best price on gasoline in the whole area.

There is so much to be learned about the history of human occupation in this part of the world.

I wanted to share a little of it with our wonderful group of desert explorers. Those who had to cancel the trip were very much missed.

Thanks to those who made the long drive, brought the wonderful food and shared our metal campfire. Bob and Sue, Dave, Mignon, Jay, Ron, Lindsay and Tracy. Beautiful weather, perfect timing, excellent speakers and a great attitude by all made it a truly memorable trip. ~ Vicki

 

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On the Trail of Desert History

Bill and Julie Smith with Anne and Mike Story

Howdy Desert Explorers! Last Fall while Bill and I were camping in Sierra Vista, Arizona, we found ourselves tracking a bit of western history. Our friends and fellow campers Rose Ann and Mike had a 2009 True West Magazine article that had figured out the location of Wyatt Earp’s famous shootout at Cottonwood Springs. Most of us are familiar with this incident from reading history or viewing the movie Tombstone. Together we were surprised to figure out this shootout location was just across the road from our camping area in the foothills of the Whetstone Mountains! The four of us combined the info in the article with maps of our own, jumped in the jeep and bounced along seven or so miles of rough dirt roads and terrain to find the shootout spot. After several miles of beautiful chaparral, challenging dirt roads, and screeching ‘desert pinstripes’ we reached a point where we had to stop and hike in the rest of the way. We hiked up, down, and through sagebrush, tree lined gullies, and dry grass meadows being very glad it was too cold for rattlesnakes. It is a gorgeous area with high desert plants, rugged mountains, and open range cattle scattered over thousands of acres. After a few miles of hiking we saw Wyatt and The Cowboys’ shootout spot about a quarter mile in the distance – it was so exciting! However, the sun was going down quickly and we didn’t trust ourselves to hike and drive back in the dark in such a desolate area so we turned around. We hiked back and bounced the Jeep all over again, making it to our camp just before dark. Bill and I tried hiking in from another location a few days later and almost made it that way too. We decided we will try to get to the shootout location again but start out EXTRA early next time! ~ Julie

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Friday, 17 June 2022 23:40

Mad Mike Hughes

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Mad Mike Hughes

By Bob Jaussaud

Last month on Old Route 66 about four miles east of Amboy, Sue and I noticed an RV that had apparently been abandoned. We found the two-track leading to it and went to investigate. The unique rig had a rocket launch mechanism built on the back and markings indicating it had belonged to Mad Mike Hughes. So who was “Mad Mike”? It turns out he was a most unique desert character. Mad Mike was set on blasting himself into the atmosphere to verify his professed belief that the earth is flat. At any rate, Mad Mike succeeded in making a steam powered rocket and launching himself thousands of feet off the desert floor – not once, but twice. He barely survived his first rocket trip and sadly the second one did him in.

Mike had a “career” as a limousine driver. As such, he set a Guinness world record by rocketing his stretch Lincoln Town Car over a 103 foot jump. Quite a ride and perhaps the beginnings of his rocket career. Mike’s next adventure was to build a steam powered rocket so that he could ride it high enough to photograph the earth as a flat disc. After several attempts, Mike finally had a successful rocket launch onMarch 24, 2018. He reached a height of 1,875 feet and had a hard landing, but survived without serious injury. On February 22, 2020 Mike tried again. During the blast-off the parachute that was supposed to bring him and his rocket safely down was destroyed and he crashed to earth for the last time.

Seeing Mike’s rig in its abandoned state was sad for me. I could feel the life and times it was part of. I honor Mike Hughes as a man who lived his dreams and effectively reached for the stars. Who among us has the stuff it takes to do that? ~ Joeso

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